U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy (pictured, 2021) on Tuesday issued a general advisory, warning that social-media use could pose mental-health risks among children and teens. File Photo by Samuel Corum/UPI | License Photo
May 23 (UPI) -- Social media use could lead to mental health issues among children and teens, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said Tuesday as he called on policymakers to enact stricter guidelines.
"There are ample indicators that social media can also have a profound risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents," Murthy wrote in the U.S. Surgeon General's Advisory.
A general advisory is a public statement that calls attention to an urgent public health issue and provides recommendations on addressing it.
The document is not meant to be exhaustive on the topic, Murthy said, rather it draws on available public evidence.
"Nothing's more important to parents than keeping our kids safe. And when it comes to protecting kids' wellbeing on social media, parents need more support," Murthy tweeted following the release of the advisory.
In the advisory, Murthy does point to some benefits as a result of social media use, listing self expression and social connections.
He also points to a 2019 longitudinal study that concluded adolescents spending more than than three hours per day on social media "faced double the risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes including symptoms of depression and anxiety."
Murthy called the current social media situation a decades-long experiment.
"Our children and adolescents don't have the luxury of waiting years until we know the full extent of social media's impact," the Surgeon General wrote in the report.
"To date, the burden of protecting youth has fallen predominantly on children, adolescents, and their families."
The advisory goes on to list several suggestions for parents, lawmakers and tech companies.
Those suggestions include creating so-called "tech free" zones and establishing scientific advisory committees to help craft policy.
He also urged researchers to dedicate more time and effort to studying the topic.
In March, Utah pushed forward with legislation requiring parents or guardians to give consent for people younger than 18 to use social media accounts.